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MEMO TO THE UNITED STATES SENATE: STOP DELAYING! RATIFY THE UNITED NATIONS CRPD

Everyone has seen them. If you walk down any street in your neighborhood or through your town, you have come across the curb ramps at pedestrian crossings that assist the disabled. The monumental law of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mandated these “ramp runs”, as the statute calls them.

For most people, these “ramp runs” do not garner a second look; however, for the physically challenged in society, they are vitally important in allowing them to maneuver and maintain a sense of independence.

One organization that took notice of the plight of people with disabilities was the United Nations. Adopted in December 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been deemed the U.N. framework for persons living with a disability. On July 30, 2009, the U.S. signed the CRPD. There are now 117 signatories to the CRPD.  What waits is U.S. Senate ratification.

To place this matter into some perspective, consider that there are approximately 650 million individuals globally living with some form of disability today – a staggering figure! A very good reason as to why I would urge readers of my blog posts to take action themselves by contacting their U.S. Senators and urge them to vote for ratification.    ALWAYS GETTING A BAD RAP

As is the norm when discussing matters pertaining to the U.N., there are those who carry out their assaults by creating certain claims having no merit in fact simply because their agenda is to see the U.N. abolished. This issue, unfortunately, is no different.

However, the naysayers could not prevent the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from voting 13-6 to send the CRPD to the full Senate for a vote.

What needs to be perfectly clear is this vote was no small feat: Members of the Senate Committee from both the Democratic and Republican parties came together in support of this very worthwhile accord.

To demonstrate the importance of this U.N Convention, former Senator Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), writing in The Hill’s Congress Blog said, “By ratifying the treaty, the U.S. Senate will stand up for the equality and dignity of people with disabilities around the globe, just as Congress did for Americans in 1990.” The two former and  influential lawmakers went on to say, “…ratification does not require changes to laws in the U.S. Ratification would signal to the world that the U.S. is committed to international standards for disability rights and will play a leadership role in implementation of the treaty obligations.” Furthermore, they added, cost is not an issue associated with the CRPD and U.S. businesses will “…benefit economically…because it will encourage the adoption of U.S. business’ innovative technology to improve accessibility around the world.”  Critics have long argued that ratification of certain U.N. treaties will cede U.S. sovereignty to the global institution. However, former Senator Dole and Representative Coelho make a rather compelling case to the contrary: Ratification of the CRPD will not “…require changes to laws in the U.S….” It certainly would appear that the arguments against the CRPD have no standing. U.S. LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED-AGAIN!

We are a nation that prides itself on fairness and a sense of common decency. Well, what could be more fair and decent than protecting those members of our global community who require assistance due to their physical  limitation?

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice remarked that discrimination involving the physically challenged “hinders economic development, limits democracy, and erodes societies.” The U.N. Ambassador made her remarks following the July 2009 U.S. signing of the CRPD.

The Obama Administration hoped to ratify the CRPD on the anniversary date of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – July 26, 2012. This did not occur. ANOTHER OBSTACLE TO CONFRONT

The plan for ratification faltered when Republican Senator from South Carolina Jim DeMint held up further consideration of the treaty in July.

A statement issued on behalf of the South Carolina lawmaker said, “The United States is already the world leader in addressing the needs of the disabled and it’s foolish to think Americans need to sign away our sovereignty to exert our influence around the world.” 

Well, the Senator from South Carolina is right out of central casting. If it is dealing with the U.N. then, of course, it must be the sovereigntyissue. Right? Wrong! I would hasten to say that Mr. DeMint did not read Mr. Dole and Mr. Coelho’s piece on this topic. He should take the time to review it. There have been obstacles before to confront on other issues, and there will be other obstacles as well, but they should not deter those who stand on the right side of this issue.

We have a moral imperative and duty to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to allow those living with a disability an opportunity to maintain their sense of dignity, and to give them the same equal access to everything that we all enjoy.